Trump Tower board seeks nearly $90,000 from estate of art collector who died in 50th-floor fire
By Meagan Flynn
18 October 2018
Six months after a fire in Trump Tower killed 50th-floor resident Todd Brassner, the building’s residential board is coming after Brassner’s estate for tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid common charges stemming from a lien on his apartment, according to a complaint filed Tuesday in the Supreme Court in New York County.
Brassner, a longtime Trump Tower resident who lived alone with hundreds of vintage instruments and an elaborate multimillion-dollar art collection, died April 7 after an electrical fire engulfed his apartment, which had no working smoke alarms. He was 67.
Now, with backing from a Trump Organization attorney, the Residential Board of Trump Tower Condominium is suing Brassner’s estate for more than $64,600 in unpaid common charges, an amount that includes fees accrued in the months after Brassner died. The residential board is also seeking a judgment of at least $25,000, bringing the total amount sought to nearly $90,000. Common charges are condo fees that typically include maintenance, utilities or other services. Brassner defaulted on common charge payments in June 2015, according to the complaint.
Brassner’s family members and executors of his estate, Heather and Aaron Brassner, could not immediately be reached for comment, nor could the attorney representing the board.
The fire at Trump Tower, where the president’s penthouse and the Trump Organization headquarters are located, captured wide attention in April both for Trump’s silence on Brassner’s death and for the lack of sprinklers in the building, a feature that Trump had lobbied against installing in the condos in the late 1990s.
Brassner moved into Trump Tower in 1996, according to property records. The son of a wealthy New York art collector, Brassner was described by friends as an “utter expert on Pop Art” who was “constantly swapping, buying and selling” and at the center of the action in the art world, as his friend, Stuart Pivar, told the Art Newspaper. Brassner ran with Andy Warhol’s Factory crowd in the 1970s as he built his impressive art collection, including a 1975 portrait Warhol made of Brassner, which the Trump Tower resident valued at $850,000 in 2015.
He kept the portrait in his Trump Tower condo, along with a collection of more than 100 vintage guitars, $25,000 worth of banjos, about 150 ukuleles from the early 20th century, an organ, a Robert Indiana sculpture and artwork by Jack Kerouac — just to name a few items.
But over the years, he appeared to have trouble keeping up with the condo payments. Trump Tower’s residential board filed multiple liens against him between 2003 and 2013 for unpaid common charges, New York court records show. And in 2015 he filed for bankruptcy, which included listing all of the assets kept in his apartment. The condo was valued at $2.5 million.
At the time of Brassner’s death, friends told the New York Times he was in declining health and that he had been trying unsuccessfully to sell the apartment. Once Trump became president, resulting in omnipresent armed security outside Trump Tower, Brassner couldn’t seem to find a buyer, one friend told the Times.
“It haunts me,” Brassner’s friend Stephen Dwire, a musician and producer, told the paper. “He said, ‘This is getting untenable.’ It was like living in an armed camp. But when people heard it was a Trump building, he couldn’t give it away.”
Trump built the tower in 1983, when installing sprinklers was not required. In 1998, when two tragic New York City high-rise fires left several people dead, the city moved to begin requiring sprinklers in high-rises. But Trump opposed retrofitting his building with the sprinklers and lobbied to persuade city officials to drop a proposal that would have required them in older apartment buildings, as The Washington Post previously reported.
Some speculated that the April fire could have been mitigated had they been installed.
The New York City Fire Department ultimately found that the fire was caused by an overloaded electrical board. The Times reported that the building was equipped with smoke sensors, which is what alerted firefighters to the blaze.
In a statement on Twitter in April, Trump did not offer condolences for Brassner’s family but did brag about the construction of the building.
“Fire at Trump Tower is out,” he tweeted, before the fire had been put out. “Very confined (well built building). Firemen (and women) did a great job. THANK YOU!”
A month after Brassner died, a Trump Organization attorney filed a lien against the deceased man on behalf of the Residential Board of the Trump Tower Condominium, seeking at that time $52,000 in unpaid common charges since July 2016, according to New York City Department of Finance records.